MILLINOCKET, Maine ― A southern Maine family has blessed the Katahdin region with a large donation of food almost in time for Christmas, a local food bank operator said Monday.

About 6,000 pounds of nonperishable foodstuffs arrived at ICare Ministries in 192 banana boxes on Saturday, the Rev. Herschel Hafford said. The food is expected to fill about 90 percent of the shelves at the Spring Street food pantry when the storefront reopens next week, though Hafford said he might have volunteers start the work on Wednesday.

The family, which lives in Otisfield and wishes to remain anonymous, made its donation just in time, Hafford said. The pantry’s shelves were almost empty, with only some cereals, fruit and vegetables occupying about 10 percent of its shelving.

“They and their three sons decided that rather than spend money on themselves, they wanted to give things to others, so they started gathering food,” Hafford said Monday.

The family, Hafford said, had last made a large donation of food in February.

“It is a tremendous gift, especially with our shelves as empty as they were,” Hafford said. “They really want to help us with whatever they can do, and many of their friends contributed, too.”

Otisfield is a small Oxford County town west of Lewiston that has a population of about 1,770, according to the latest census data. With a population of about 4,500 according to the last census, Millinocket is the largest town in the Katahdin region of northern Penobscot County.

The two towns are about 200 miles apart. The Otisfield family became interested in helping the area through Hafford’s ministry when it saw a newspaper article last spring that discussed the region’s economic problems, Hafford said.

The new donation includes pasta, sauces, cooking materials, canned fruits and vegetables – “almost any type of dry goods,” Hafford said.

The ICare Ministries serve hundreds of people from the Katahdin and Lincoln Lakes regions annually with food- and home heating-assistance programs. Its home-heating program allocated about $25,000 in fuel to Katahdin region families last winter, Hafford said.

It also acts as a collection point for relief efforts worldwide. One of its most recent efforts sent truckloads of medical supplies donated by Millinocket Regional Hospital and other state care centers to Haiti in March.

The church, which previously has shipped shoes to Third World countries through Soles-4-Souls, also collected medical supplies from Northern Maine Medical Center in Fort Kent and Lincoln’s Health Access Network, among other places, Hafford said.

This has been “one of the best years of our organization,” Hafford said. His ministry building has a new roof and this year added a children’s ministry program on Sundays.

“It has just been a wonderful year. It’s because of a lot of people who caringly and generously support what we do,” Hafford said.

The pantry is open from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays. Anyone interested in donating more items or making contributions should call Hafford at 723-7977, email, or visit ICare Ministries, 45 Spring St.